Survey of Popular Culture

ENGL 3815—001

Fall 2013

Room: PH 321

Time: 100-225


David Lavery | Text | Class Members | Class Policies and Procedures | Course Requirements | Course Blog | Websites/Popular Culture Links | Agenda | Take-Home Final


Dr. David Lavery

Office: PH 316A | Office Hours: M and W 9-11 am; 1-4 pm; T and Th 9-12 | E-mail: | Office Phone/Voice-Mail: 615-898-5648 | Home Page:

Dr. David Lavery is Director of Graduate Studies and Professor in the English Department at MTSU (1993- ). The recipient of the University's 2006 Distinguished Research Award, he is the author of over one hundred and fifty published essays, chapters, and reviews, he is author / co-author / editor / co-editor of over twenty books, including Joss Whedon, A Creative Portrait: From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Avengers, TV Goes to Hell: An Unofficial Road Map of Supernatural, The Essential Cult Television Reader, and The Essential Sopranos Reader. The co-convener of international conferences on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the work of Joss Whedon and on The Sopranos, co-founder of the Whedon Studies Association, and founding co-editor of the journals Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies, Critical Studies in Television, and Series/Season/Show, he has lectured around the world on the subject of television (Australia, Turkey, the UK, Portugal, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany) and has been a guest/source for the BBC, NPR, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The New York Times, A Folha de Sao Paulo (Brazil), Publica (Portugal), Information (Netherlands), AP, The Toronto Star, USA Today. From 2006-2008, he taught at Brunel University in London.


Class Members

John Arthur | Brittany Blair | Elliot Burrows | Jamie Chumbley | Dechaea Dobson | Krista Duggin | Alexandra Duross | Caleb Franklin | Skyler Hornaday | Brendan Johnson | Noosha Kamtarin | Shelby Meyers | Chelsea Miller | Jason Orlando | Alexa Perry | Kendall Plunk | Mark Priddy | Kelsie Richards | Philip Sellers | Amanda Stringer | Lucas Tallent | Chase Tarver | Michael Tierney



Text: Click on the cover to go to the Amazon page for the text or order online from any other seller.


Course Requirements

Essays: (Essay 1) An essay at least 1,000 words in length dissecting/reading/interpreting a popular culture personality, artist, text, genre, series, episode, movie, place, product, icon, meme, etc.: worth 20% of your grade [20% of your grade]; (Essay 2) A source paper at least 1500 words in length on a popular culture phenomenon approved by me [30% of your grade].

Tests: A take-home essay final exam [20% of your grade]. Take-Home Final available here

Blog Posts: At least 10 significant posts to the course blog [go here to learn more] [20% of your grade].

Class Participation [10% of your grade].



Class Policies and Procedures

bluebullet Class format: We will follow a lecture / discussion format during most class meetings. bluebullet Manuscript form: All written assignments (other than the blog entries) are to be submitted via the relevant D2L drop boxes. Please be sure to carefully edit and proofread your own work. Name the file with your own last name (for example: lavery.doc). Be sure to carefully edit and proofread your own work. Do not simply rely on your computer's spell checker. (Go here to read a poem that demonstrates the untrustworthiness of spell checkers.) bluebullet Essay Evaluation: I will evaluate your essays using a grading scale which can be found here (PDF file, Acrobat Reader required). bluebullet Reading assignments: You are responsible for having read the entirety of each assignment, including the editors' introductions to each reading. bluebullet Participation & involvement: Please come prepared for each day’s class. I encourage you to become an active participant in class discussion and to ask constructive and meaningful questions at all times—even when I appear to be "lecturing." Please do not save your best questions / comments for after class, as students so often do. bluebullet Attendance: Regular attendance is essential to the ongoing progress of the course. Two absences will be permitted. A third absence may result in the loss of a letter grade. A fourth absence may result in failure of the course. bluebullet Cell Phones/Computers Use of cell phones during classs is strictly forbidden. Use of lap tops/netbooks/tablets (for note-taking purposes exclusively) is allowed only if prior permission is secured from me. bluebullet Inclement Weather Policy: Go here. bluebullet Plagiarism / Cheating: The unacknowledged use of the words / ideas / insights / original research of another is, of course, prohibited. Do not assume that, like prominent historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose and journalist Fareed Zakaria, you may plagiarize without fear of punishment. Should I catch you plagiarizing, or cheating in any way, you will receive a grade of "0" on the assignment in question, the violation may be reported to University authorities, and you may fail the course, as several students in past semesters have done. bluebullet Students with Disabilities: Any student with a disability will be given all the rights and privileges guaranteed under the Americans with Disabilities Act if he/she is registered with Disabled Student Services (call/contact John Harris, KUC 120/2783). bluebulletUniversity Writing Center: The University Writing Center, sponsored by the English Department and staffed by full-time faculty and graduate teaching assistants, is located in Room 362 of the Walker Library. At the UWC you can get constructive help with a variety of writing problems, from pre-writing to organization to grammatical errors. (Please be aware, however, that the UWC does not do proofreading.) bluebulletGrading Scale: 90-99%=A | 80-89%=B | 70-79%=C | 60-69%=D | 0-59%=F



bluebulletWeek 1

8/27/13: Introduction to the Course

8/29/13: Introduction to the Course (continued) | Reading: Signs of Life—Introduction | Power Point(s): Semiotics


bluebulletWeek 2

9/3/5 and 9/5/13: Your professor won’t be meeting with you this week. He will be in the UK, where he is the only American keynoter at Dr. Who: Walking in Eternity, a conference at the University of Hertfordshire. Class will be held, however. Dr. Jonathan Bradley will meet with you, take roll, and, appropriately, offer a two day introduction to Doctor Who, including (on Thursday) an in-class screening and discussion of one of the great Who episodes: “Blink.”

bluebulletWeek 3

9/10/13: Dr. Who: lecture and discussion | Power Point(s): Doctor Who | "America Needs Who" (as PDF)

9/12/13: Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption | Reading: Signs of Life—Chapter 1 | Power Point(s): American Consumption

bluebulletWeek 4

9/17/13: Consuming Passions (continued) | Power Point(s): TBA

9/19/13: Consuming Passions (continued) | Screening: Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1983)

bluebulletWeek 5

9/24/13: Brought to You B(u)y: The Signs of Advertising | Reading: Signs of Life—Chapter 2 | Power Point(s): Advertising

9/26/13: Brought to You B(u)y (continued): Screening: SNL: The Best of Commercial Parodies

bluebulletWeek 6

10/1/13: Brought to You B(u)y (continued) | Screening: Still Killing Us Softly or Miss Representation (Netflix)

10/3/13: No class

bluebulletWeek 7

10/8/13: Video Dreams: Television, Music, and Cultural Forms | Reading: Signs of Life—Chapter 3 | Power Point(s): The TV is Better Than the Movies Meme | Television Glossary | Television Show Links

10/10/13: Video Dreams: Television, etc. (continued) | Power Point(s): The Allusions of TV


10/12-15/2013: Fall Break


bluebulletWeek 8

10/17/13: Video Dreams: Television, etc. (continued) | Power Point(s): The Sitcom

bluebulletWeek 9

10/22/13:Video Dreams: Television, etc. (continued) | Power Point(s): The Sitcom

10.24/13: Class Cancelled | Essay 1 Due

bluebulletWeek 10

10/29/13: The Hollywood Sign | Reading: Signs of Life—Chapter 4 | Power Point(s): Cult Media

10/31/13: The Hollywood Sign (continued): The Coen Brothers and Cinematic Creativity | Power Point: Coen Brothers

bluebulletWeek 11

11/5/13: The Hollywood Sign (continued) | Screening: The Celluloid Closet | Power Point(s): Gay Cinema

11/7/13: The Hollywood Sign (continued) | Genre | Power Point(s): Genre

bluebulletWeek 12

11/12/13: The Hollywood Sign (continued) | Genre | Power Point(s): Genre

11/14/13: You-Topian Dreams: Semiotics and the New Media | Reading: Signs of Life—Chapter 5 | Power Point(s): TBA

bluebulletWeek 13

11/19/13: You-Topian Dreams (continued) | Power Point(s): TBA

11/21/13: American Paradox: Culture, Conflict, and Contradiction in the USA | Reading: Signs of Life—Chapter 6 | Power Point(s): TBA

bluebulletWeek 14

11/26/13: American Paradox (continued) | Power Point(s): TBA

11/28/2013: Thanksgiving (No Class)

bluebulletWeek 15

12/3/13: American Makeover: Constructing Identity in the Age of Entertainment | Reading: Signs of Life—Chapter 7 | Power Point(s): TBA | Essay 2 Due

12/5: Study Day

bluebulletFinal Exam Week—12/6-12/2013 | Take-Home Final Due by the end of the day on 12/12